Scripture Reference:  Philippians 3:7-10

Introduction:

I can’t think of anything more honest and truthful than the fact that some times fellowship hurts.  I am eager to get into today’s message, and therefore I’m not going to spend a lot of time here on the introduction.  Believe with me that God will use my fingers as that as a pen of a ready writer…writing only of the oracles of God.  That He will anoint me with the supernatural ability to speak with boldness, clarity, and precision.  Let’s believe God for ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts that are receptive and responsive…and that the Holy Ghost will seal this message we’re about to receive in our hearts.  In Jesus’ name…Amen.

Today’s Message:  “Fellowship and Pain”

Fellowship hurts sometimes. That’s why Paul said this, speaking of Jesus: “That I may know him (Jesus)—and the power of his resurrection, and may share (the word share tries to convey the Greek koinonia translated, in many Bibles as fellowship of) his sufferings.” The fellowship of His sufferings is the relational connection born out of your mutual experience. People suffer financial loss, health problems, and family break up. Those difficulties are not the fellowship of His suffering unless they are the direct result of our following Christ.

Friends, here is where we come to find out if our love for people is authentic or not.  It’s during times of hardship, isn’t it.  This is where we find out who are really, authentic friends are.  When we’re down on our luck, when troubled times come, and when we’re in need of someone to be there…that’s when we find out who is really there for us…and who is just there for what they can get from us.  There’s an old country song that says basically the same thing…when times get toughest…that’s when we really find out who are friends are.

So, now we know where we’re going when we talk about how fellowship hurts because when we find out that some of those people we really came to love don’t really love us as much as they claimed to…and it’s always in the midst of struggles that we find out…and some times it happens where just about everyone we thought was with us…really weren’t with us at all.

I have experienced a lot of this in my life, and this point really isn’t tied specifically to the church.  This is one of those areas that whether the people are in the world, or in the church…the truth is there’s always a difference between fans and family…isn’t there?

Again, I have to give a quick rebuke to the church because the simple truth is we should be different from the world.  We should be because the Word of God tells us that we are to bear one another’s burdens, but rather than help people bear their burdens…these days there’s plenty of people in the church that do the exact opposite…isn’t there!?!  There’s plenty of people IN the church that like to kick you while you’re down, and then rub your nose in the doo doo by telling you that you either just don’t have enough faith or that God’s punishing you because of sin or whatever…and they wrap it up in this neat little bow of “telling you the truth in love”.

Uh oh.  Here goes Pastor Bryan again, and here comes the Holy Ghost.

I keep having to write that we in the church should be different from the people in the world because we aren’t, and if we’re going to have this world-wide revival then we’re going to have to separate ourselves from the world and even some of the church world…and get back on board with being the kind of church that Jesus identifies with.

What kind of church does Jesus identify with?  Try reading Acts 2 and Acts 5…and there you’ll find the kind of church that Jesus identifies with…and then ask yourself a couple of questions.

  1. Does the church I attend fit the description of the kind of church Jesus identifies with?
  2. Do I fit the description of the kind of Christian Jesus identifies with?

The kind of church the Jesus identifies is found in Acts 2 thru Acts 5, and this is the kind of church we need to get back to being.  All this other stuff that people think church is…God’s not interested in it…He’s interested in the kind of church that we read about in Acts…and so many of the buildings we call churches today look and act nothing like them…and then wonder why there’s no move of God or presence of the Holy Ghost in them…it’s because God’s not been allowed to be apart of your church service for quite some time…and until you stop with all the foolishness…not only is God’s presence not going to be in your church…you’re going to find yourself standing at the White Throne Judgment…and that’s not a place you want to be.

Jesus Christ paid the debt for your sin. He took upon Himself the punishment for your sin. Question: Did He deserve that humiliating and painful death? (No!) Could He have avoided it? (Yes!) But did He take it? (Yes!) I experience the fellowship of His suffering when I accept a pain I do not deserve.

There’s always going to be hardship and suffering.  Jesus never promised that all that would go away just because we choose to follow and serve Him.  In fact, He promises just the opposite…that hardship and persecution and hard times would come.  The sad thing is like I said a moment ago is that instead of coming along side people to help in their time of need…we have become more like the world and decide to kick people while they’re down.  Don’t you know that I’m about to say that I can find more compassion from people who are in and of the world than I can in the church…and don’t you know I’m going to follow that up by saying that I shouldn’t be able to find more compassion in the world than I can find in the church!?!

But it’s the truth isn’t it.  How many times have you been told by someone who God told them to give you “tough love”.  Really?  Show me that in scripture because what I read is that I’m suppose to bear your burdens with you…not tell you that if you have enough faith you’ll get through it.  The Bible says we’re to not only love in word, but in deed and in truth…right!?!  The Bible also says that if I see my brother in need and I just look at him and say go in peace…I’m not doing anything to help them am I?  You know what else doesn’t really help when you say to them “I’m praying for you.”  Are you really or is that your way of saying you can sympathize with where I am, but you’re surely glad it’s me and not you?  Oh, I know I am striking a few chords now.  I know I am because I have heard you tell me those exact things.

I would like to be able to write a feel good message, but I can’t.  I can’t write one because the Holy Ghost won’t let me.  I can’t get away from talking about how we shouldn’t be able to have an easier time finding fellowship, compassion, and genuine care for people from the world than I do from the church…but the truth is…I can’t stop talking about this point because the Holy Ghost won’t let me.

When are we going to wake up to realize that if we want the world to want our God…then we have to start treating the world the way the Bible says we should, and that means we are to put on the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…and demonstrate that love to a world that has no idea it’s lost and going to hell.  The world looks at the church, and simply asks why would we want what you have when we can get more authentic people right here in the world.

That’s the whole point of what I am saying.  The people who are authentic, genuine, and full of love ought to be the people who have been forgiven of the atrocities that we have committed against God.  How soon we forget where it is we were when we came to the Cross and knelt before the Lord knowing that we needed Him to save us not just from our sins, not just from going to hell, but we needed Him to save us from ourselves.  And then we get saved and start reading the Bible and get a little religion in us, and then suddenly we forget what it was like when we were lost and in need of a Savior…and we thumb our noses at the very world we just came out of by the grace and mercy and blood of Jesus…and we think that God is okay with us treating the world like that.

I have six words for you.  GOD…IS…NOT…PLEASED…AT…ALL!!!

Now, I’ve done plenty of things where I deserved what I got. But in addition to my own failings, there is the pain of misunderstanding and betrayal and rejection; the things Christ experienced. Listen Christian, when you absorb injury for the sake of others, you know Jesus in a new and deeper way. You know Him in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. He took what He did not deserve. In order to become more like Him we will have to learn the fellowship of His sufferings.

Wouldn’t you know that this message would get to this point?  I have done plenty of horrible things in my life, and if I were to be sentenced to eternal life in hell for that…I would be just in getting what I deserved…but God…who is rich in mercy and full of grace knew that one day He would call my name, and I would answer and become His…and that I would one day become a servant to Him…and here I am after all the crap I’ve done in my life knowing full well that I have absolutely NO right to judge you for your sins because mine are most likely worse.

The Bible talks about those who are forgiven of much…love much.  I understand the price of the blood that was shed for me.  I understand that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the blood that was shed for me.  I understand and know full well that the message of the Cross isn’t just not foolishness to me, but it’s the very life blood that sustains me today.

I think it’s an absolute shame that it’s easier to find people who are full of love and compassion in the world…and full of judgment and condemnation in the church.  That is backwards…and I’m not the only one who thinks that way…God’s not pleased by that either.  The reason I know that is because I can’t get off this topic…and I promise you I am trying to close this message…

I don’t know about you, but I am convicted here that I need to take a good, long, hard look at my own attitude towards the world.  I need to make sure that I am easier to approach than someone who is in and of the world.  I need to make sure that I am putting the love of God on display not just to the world, but to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as well.

In fact, I think this is a good place to close this message.  I think we all need to take stock of our attitude and the way we treat everyone…not just people in the world…but people in the church as well.  Take a look at the church in the Book of Acts…they didn’t treat anyone like we as the Body of Christ treat people today…and the ONLY WAY we can have an ACTS church is to DO what the ACTS church did!

One place to start is by treating the people of household of faith like they’re our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The only way we’re going to draw the world in to our buildings is if we have something to offer them.  In order to be fishers of men…we have to make sure we have bait to attract them to our lines…otherwise…we’re just casting our line into the water with no bait and we’re just wasting time.

By the way…time is becoming more and more precious by the day.  We don’t have time to waste because that trumpet is about to sound, and when it does…it’s going to be too late.  So, we might want to get out act together now, and start becoming the revival we want to see…Amen!?!

In Closing:

I know today’s message came across rather strongly.  I was hoping to write a much softer message, but I guess the Holy Ghost had other plans.  I would rather write what He wants…then to write something I want…because what He has to say is far more important than any opinion of mine…Amen.

I hope this message challenged you to take a look at how you treat people in general.  Ya know, the Bible has this thing called “The Golden Rule” that we have totally forgotten about and twisted.  The Golden Rule is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Somehow, it’s become “do unto others as that do unto you or do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you.”

We all know that shouldn’t be.  We need to get back so some basic things in the Bible, friends.  To the world the Golden Rule is foolish, but to us…it’s a basic thing that we all need to follow…because in the end…I know many of us wouldn’t want anyone to treat us the way we treat others…and I’m including myself in this too by the way…and if we’re not treating people the way we would like to be treated…then we’re not loving them according to the Word of God.

We seriously all need to check ourselves…and ask God to forgive us for the way we treat people…Amen.

I think we need to close this message with a prayer…please join me won’t you!?!

Father, remind me that the command to forgive one another assumes there will be things which must be forgiven—like hurts. If I’m growing into Your likeness, Lord, I will be developing a capacity for accepting the pains that come with that growth. Forgive me for the way I treat people, and help me to learn to incorporate the Golden Rule into my life.  When I have nothing good to say about someone, help me, Lord God…to keep my mouth shut.  Lord, help me to be an instrument of the grace, love, and mercy that You have shown me.  Help me to love, to forgive, and please break me of any pride I have in this area. I desperately need Your help in growing that way, Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessings and Grace to you.

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